Celebrating Black History Month and West Virginia’s Entrepreneurs

It may not seem like it, but the days are getting longer. We may be in the dead of winter here in West Virginia, but at Rural Development February is when things really start to heat up. Funding award announcements and learning opportunities are just a few of the things lined up for your Rural Development Team this month.

February marks Black History Month. This month provides an opportunity for our country to celebrate generations of Black Americans whose courage, advocacy, and patriotism have enriched our communities and strengthened our country. In honor of Black History Month, we join President Biden and all Americans in recognizing the innumerable contributions, beautiful legacy, and bright future of Black Americans.

National Entrepreneurship Week (Feb. 10-17) also takes place in February. It’s a time for us to celebrate our entrepreneurs and recognize the impact they play in the success of our state and our nation. West Virginians have a strong entrepreneurial spirit and it’s important for us to foster that culture and make sure they have the resources they need to succeed.

What better way to celebrate Entrepreneurship Week than with a webinar on our Value-Added Producer Grant program. This program helps agricultural producers and rural small businesses enter value-added activities to generate new products, create and expand marketing opportunities, and increase producer income. Your RD staff here in West Virginia will host a webinar on February 15 at 10:00 a.m. You can register for that here: http://tinyurl.com/VAPG24. The deadline to apply for the VAPG program is April 11 for electronic applications and April 16 for paper applications. If you have any questions, please contact Business Program Specialist Abbey Ord at [email protected].

Supporting entrepreneurs is about more than just financial assistance. Starting a business can be intimidating and it can be difficult figuring out where to begin. That’s why Rural Development has created a Resource Guide for Rural Entrepreneurs designed to help rural entrepreneurs start and grow businesses, create good-paying jobs and strengthen West Virginia’s economy.

What is Rural Development doing to help our entrepreneurs? Last year, we invested over $20 million through our business and cooperative programs to support rural entrepreneurs and small businesses right here in West Virginia. Our rural entrepreneurs are critical to the success of our nation’s economy. Rural Development is committed to advocating for rural business owners and building brighter futures for everyone in rural West Virginia. We do this because when rural communities succeed, West Virginia succeeds, when West Virginia succeeds, our nation succeeds and by continuing to work together, West Virginia will continue to prosper.

State Director for West Virginia

Born, raised, and educated in West Virginia, Ryan Thorn grew up the son of a coal miner and learned early in life the importance of hard work, serving others, and dedication to creating opportunities for rural communities. Thorn has 15 years of professional experience in the private and public sectors, working in the fields of public and government affairs and economic development. He previously served more than five years as Economic Development Manager for the Office of U.S. Senator Joe Manchin III (D-WV). In this role, he worked with local, state, and federal stakeholders to attract new and expand existing businesses, strengthen public infrastructure, develop a skilled and ready workforce, and create economically diverse and resilient communities across the state. Thorn is the first in his immediate family to graduate from college and is an advocate for lifelong learning. He holds a master’s degree from West Virginia University, a bachelor’s degree from West Virginia Wesleyan College, and is a board member of the Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College Foundation.